I cared a lot about what he thought of me. My gut felt anxious under his stare, my knees buckled when he came near. I felt his eyes heavy on my skin, glaring at the parts of me he wished there were less of; other times, I’m sure he didn’t see me at all. I made myself small for him.
I walked around on eggshells, tiptoed through an obstacle I wasn’t sure I could survive whole.
I somehow convinced myself that if I did everything he said or expected of me, then maybe he’d want me. Maybe—just maybe—if I worked to fit every definition he held of the “perfect girl,” he could see that I was there all along. I could be his ideal: the girl who went with the flow, the one who cared very little and a lot, all at the same time. I could be the girl, and the friend—the love and the good time—I could be the one he’d run to and lean on.
No labels? Okay, that’s cool. I wasn’t really looking for anything either.
No commitment? I mean, that’s fine. You’ll still be by my side regardless, right? I don’t need you to say the words to make it true.
You’re still on Tinder? Yeah… I can swipe right a couple times too—even if it’s only when you’re looking.
I traded in love for a string of compromises. Made arrangements that felt a lot like custody battle to a marriage that never existed. I could have your body on the weekends, and your heart on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, I’d get to rummage through your thoughts, hoping I would find one written about me…. then Thursday would turn to Friday, and I didn’t yet know if we were just friends or maybe something more.
So, I grasped at straws, hoping I could draw one that might spell out forever.
I look back now, and I don’t know really know what to call you. Are you an old friend, or an ex-boyfriend? Are you someone I was only “talking” to, or did I imagine that all together? And then I try to explain it, and I feel crazy for attempting to make claim to someone that was never mine.
I won’t sit here and say it was all his fault. It wasn’t. It was mine, just as much his.
He told me he wasn’t ready, expressed his fears and doubts repeatedly; yet, I refused to listen to them as truths he clung to. Instead, I convinced myself that maybe my love could be a mirror. Maybe, just maybe, he could look at me and see a reflection of who he really was… perhaps he could claim a definition I, all too eagerly, tried to force upon him.
Maybe my love could save him.
But it couldn’t. He wasn’t mine to save, nor was he mine to fix. You can’t make projects out of people… no matter how much you try to convince yourself. You are not a craftsman, nor is he a craft you can somehow manage to upcycle.
Love isn’t something that should be found second-hand. It doesn’t work like that.
I wanted you to need me and to love me, but the whole time you didn’t know how to love yourself. Yet, I convinced myself that it was okay. It was just a hurdle to jump over, not a deal-breaker that called the game. I could love you enough for the both of us.
Each time I bit my tongue, I sunk deeper into my insecurity; I chipped away at who I was and who I wanted to be. I made myself fragile for you, and then expected to be able to carry you, when I didn’t even know how to stand alone.
I made compromises—one after another. I crawled away with a broken heart, leaving a war zone that felt safer to say I imagined than to admit I signed up for.
But I did.
I thought any part of you was better than nothing. Yet, having only parts of you brought an emptiness that isn’t fit for words. I still know how to describe it. I spent months picking up the pieces to a shattered relationship that never really began.